We explain what the Mayan language is, its history and characteristics. In addition, examples of words, poems and riddles.
What is the Mayan language?
It is commonly called Maya language or Mayan language Yucatecan Maya, that is, the native language of the Yucatan Peninsula , southern Mexico (states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche). It belongs to the surviving body of the Mayan languages (spoken in Belize, Guatemala and southeast Mexico), the main Mesoamerican linguistic family.
In Mexico, the Mayan language is the second indigenous language with the largest number of speakers after Nahuatl. Today it is spoken by more than 800,000 people in the national territory, along with some 5,000 in Belize and 700 in Guatemala.
In addition, according to the government of the latter country, 25 languages are spoken in its territory, of which 22 qualify as Mayan languages (with a trunk common to Yucatecan Maya).
In these regions the Mayan language is widely used, both for school education , domestic life and local economic transactions. It has been recognized since 2003 as one of the national languages of the Mexican State.
History of the Mayan language
All Mayan languages are descendants of a protomayo language dating back approximately 5,000 years . It emerged in the Mesoamerican area and diversified very quickly into a set of Mayan languages, a family of languages that exhibit enormous similarities. Some of them were written, in pre-Columbian America, using glyphs.
Writing was common during the classical stage of Mayan Culture (c. 250-900 AD), and many of its bark-shaped codices have survived to this day. Together with the rich colonial Mayan literature of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, they are very important documents for the understanding of Mesoamerica prior to the arrival of the Spaniards.
Thanks to this, the Mayan language family is one of the most documented and known in all of America. They cover 22 official languages in Guatemala and 8 in Mexico , with Yucatecan Maya being just one of them.
Characteristics of the Mayan language
In general, the Mayan language is a synthetic and thrifty language, based on monosyllabic morphemes . Although it economizes vowels, it does not produce long consonant strings, nor vocal clusters. There are no articles, gender, or infinitive mode.
Many of its verbs also function as names, and it uses an apostrophe to separate repeated letters. All language can be written today with Latin characters.
Phonetically, in the Yucatecan Maya there are abundant consonant sounds, as well as glotalized consonants (pronounced at the end of the throat). It has five vowels, such as Spanish, which can be long, and also two glotalized vowels. It also has two tones, one high and one low, and its pronunciation is usually fast and complex.
Mayan language words
Here is a brief sample of Maya words:
- Janal : Food.
- Naj : House.
- Aj : Sir.
- Xiix : Rest, residue.
- T’eel : Rooster.
- Ma’ax : Mono.
- Soots’ : Bat.
- Miis : Cat.
- Ha ‘ : Water.
- Peech : Tick.
- Baaxal : Toy, joke.
- Nojoch : Big.
- Maalix : Ordinary, common.
- Tuunich : Stone.
- Puuch ‘ : Crush or crushed.
- Pan ch’eel : Toucan.
- Am : Spider.
- In’kel : Insect.
- Tsíimim : Horse.
Mayan language poems
And then, we present a couple of poems in Maya with his Hispanic translation:
Mix máak ku yuk’ul tin luuch,
mix máak ku jupik and k’ab ichil in leek
mix máak ku janal tin laak.
A yámae júntuul tzayam kóil peek ‘ch’apachtán tumen máako’ob.
Najil naj ku páatal yéetel u xtakche’il jool naj.
Your Láakal Máak Yojel Dzok u Chíiken to Yáamaj.
No one drinks from my canteen,
nobody slips his hand in my bread basket,
No one eats from my plate.
Your love is a dog with rage that is taken away by everyone else.
In each house, the doors close for you.
And people know that your love has bitten me.
Bin in tzuutz to chi
Bin in tz’uutz ‘a chi
Tut yam x cohl
X Ciichpam Zac
And an and an au ahal
I will kiss your mouth
I will kiss your mouth
between the cornfield plants,
You must hurry.
Riddles in Mayan language
Finally, a couple of riddles in Maya with their respective Hispanic translation:
Question: Ch ‘ujuk in k’aaba’. Kin ch’ujulkinsik u kuxtal le maako’obo
Answer: Kaab .
Translation: Sweet is my name. And I sweeten the life of man (Honey).
Question: Tilla ni, tillan, saya ni Sayán, purini, purín.
Answer: oochel .
Translation: I sit, sit down, stop, stop. (The shadow).
Question: Wa na’at na’ateche ‘na’at le na’ata’: Na’aj ku na’akal, wi’ij ku lúubul.
Answer: Wa ka’anal waak ‘booler.
Translation: Guess guessing full belly flying. Hungry go down wacky. (The rocket or firecracker).